Archive for Thursday, August 2, 2007

City budget includes slight rise in mill levy

August 2, 2007

In what might be the last budget of its kind for the city, the De Soto City Council approved the proposed 2008 budget for publication.

In doing so, the De Soto City Council agreed July 25 to schedule a hearing on the $3 million proposed budget for 7 p.m. Aug. 16.

As in the past, the proposed budget establishes mill levies for two sections of the city: those parts of De Soto served by the De Soto Fire Department and that section of the city in Johnson County Rural Fire District No. 3.

The proposed budget for that part of De Soto served by the city fire department -- old-town, the new neighborhoods off 87th Street and De Meadows -- will see an increase in the mill levy of .84 percent of 1 mill. The mill levy in that section of the city served by Johnson County Rural Fire District No. 3 stayed virtually unchanged. The proposed city property tax levies are 27.1777 mills for the city fire portion of De Soto and 17.04 in the fire district.

The proposed budget's mill levy needed to support the De Soto Fire Department in the proposed budget increased from 9.343 mills to 10.133 mills or .79 percent of a mill.

The fire district's proposed 2008 mill levy of 9.503 decreased from 9.677 mills in 2007, fire board chairman Kent Dvorak said.

With budgets ready for publication, De Soto City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle and Dvorak said talks on the unification of the two fire departments will now resume. The city council and fire board have already agreed on a framework to govern the merged departments.

Should the talks move as Dvorak expects, the split city budgets would end and one mill levy would apply to all of De Soto.

"I would suspect that is something we can put together by the first part of next year," Dvorak said. "I don't think we're that far apart."

In presenting the budget, Guilfoyle confirmed to the council that an expected 6.2 percent increase in sewer rates would be needed at the start of next year. A 5 percent water rate increase was recommended for the same time, but an adjustment might be needed sooner, the city administrator said.

"We started off the year looking really good, but the wet weather really cut down consumption," he said. "People stopped watering their lawns."

July numbers would determine whether he recommended the council raise water rates 3 percent in September, Guilfoyle said.

Guilfoyle presented the budget to the council with a package that included five-year financial forecast.

Guilfoyle first produced a long-term financial outlook a year ago that suggested increasing pressure on the mill levy from the debt the city incurred from the new swimming pool and wastewater plant unless steps were taken. To address that, the council adopted the city administrator's suggestion to both refinance existing debt and change its investment policies.

Those two policy reforms were two of five noted in a Standard & Poor's Rating Service analysis the city's creditworthiness. The city's rating of "strong," the highest available from the service, reflected the city's application of those practices Standard & Poor's looks for when scoring city's. Those include policies for long-term financial planning, debt management, investment management, budget amendments and updates and reserves and liquidity.

"We do all those things," Guilfoyle said.

Those steps allowed the council to a five-year capital improvement project earlier this year with consequences to the mill levy. Among the capital improvement projects to be included in the 2008 budget include $450,000 for first phase of Kaw River Front Park, $600,000 in downtown streetscape and landscape improvements and the Primrose extension.

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